Draft System Cleaning
We’re strong believers that beer is only as good as the cleanliness of the draft system it’s poured from. That’s why we’ve been cleaning our taproom draft systems on a biweekly schedule for as long as we can remember.
The job is a big one, but it is critical when you consider the impact and importance of the end result (delicious beer that tastes exactly like it should). So, in the name of promoting clean lines and great-tasting beer, we wanted to share our draft system cleaning process with anyone who’s interested in learning more. Sound like you? Read on below.
Please note that this SOP is specific to our draft system and the specific chemicals that we use. Some systems may require alterations to the practice (i.e., if there are split tap lines or an odd number of faucets, etc).
- Collect Materials – Tool box, plastic bins, tubing and duplex couplers, pump, chemicals, blue plastic buckets, gloves, and safety glasses.
- Turn off glycol pump and shut all CO2 valves at secondary regulators.
- Go into the cooler to disconnect kegs and couple draft lines together in sequence – It is a good idea to number the kegs with sharpie so as to hook them up to the proper line after cleaning. Be sure to check that the duplex couplers contain all their pins. Use a plastic tub to catch beer spray.
- Drain faucets into plastic tub.
- Remove faucet handles – Keep the handles in order (or write down the order) to make sure they stay in the proper order for reassembly.
- Remove and disassemble the faucets – break the faucets down into their basic parts and place in small tub of water. Remove from water and place into acid-solution soak (using 2 oz. of CS-584 in enough water to cover the parts in the plastic tub). Let soak until ready to scrub.
- Spray shank faces out with hot water spray bottle.
- Connect pump, drain lines and connective tubing to shanks in sequence – Make sure every tube has rubber gaskets at the connection points – tighten a half-turn with faucet wrench. Switch the direction of setup every other cleaning.
- Fill water buckets (2), plug in pump, and purge beer out of the lines – Make sure the drain tubes stay secure in the drain buckets (they can have a mind of their own). Ensure there are no leak points at the tower or in the cooler. Make sure the pump is at the proper psi (35-40). Adjust pressure with bypass valve on pump. Look for proper flow (if the liquid is not moving, there is a problem somewhere).
- Begin first chemical cycle (basic/caustic, CS-17). 25-30 minutes – Once the beer is purged and clear water is cycling through the lines, wait until the water level is right above the pump intake hose and then move the drain tubes from the drain bucket into the intake bucket. Add the appropriate amount of chemical to the intake bucket for the bar you are cleaning. Note the time and let cycle for 25-30 minutes.
- Clean the outside of the shanks using hot water sprayer and nylon brush.
- Begin cleaning the disassembled faucet parts – Only use the metal brush on the main body piece of the common faucet (use nylon brush on all other pieces). After brushing out every part, wash parts and plastic tubs out with clean water and reassemble the faucets (leave in tub of cold clean ice water until you’re ready to reattach them to the tower). Check for and replace damaged rubber gaskets. Keep an eye on the time (you will often have to begin the next purge and cycle before you have completed cleaning the faucet pieces).
- Purge the caustic chemical out of the lines with clean water – fill two water buckets and place the pump intake tube in one of them while leaving the drain tubes where they are.
- Begin second chemical cycle (acid, CS-584). 10 minutes – Once the caustic chemical is purged and clear water is cycling through the lines, wait until the water level is right above the pump intake hose and then move the drain tubes from the drain bucket into the intake bucket. Add the appropriate amount of chemical to the intake bucket for the bar you are cleaning at two ounces per five gallons. Run this entire solution to drain with the acid only flowing through and not returning to the source bucket. It is good practice to put the drain hose into the drain tray under the towers and allow chemical to go down the drain and scrub drain as necessary with nylon brush.
- Odds and ends – During this cycle, you should have time to finish up cleaning the parts, refill your chemical containers, and set up for the final purge. With about 5 minutes left in the second cycle, fill ice-water buckets, turn back on the glycol pump, and ready a couple pitchers of clean water.
- Final purge – Transfer the pump intake tube into one of the ice-water buckets (first use a pitcher of water to wash off the tube before the transfer). Add several pitchers of clean water to the ice-water intake bucket (the amount of pitchers varies by the bar, but it is better to err on the side of more water). Once plenty of water (at least 10 gallons) has gone through the lines, do a final sight and touch test of the drainage. If those tests fail, cycle more water. If those tests are good, let the remaining water in the intake bucket cycle until the pump is about to intake air and unplug the pump.
- Disconnect tubing from tower and clean the inside of the shanks with hot-water sprayer and nylon brush.
- Put everything back together – Replace the faucets (as upright as possible). Replace faucet handles (in the right order). Turn back on the CO2 by opening all valves. Remove duplex couplers and depress keg coupler handle to purge water out of coupler with a clean towel over the coupler, wiping down coupler prior to reconnect. Reconnect the kegs (in the right order – make sure there are no leaks or open faucets anywhere before you do this).
- Purge water out of the lines and ensure proper beer dispensing – Look for proper flow. Make sure the faucets are pouring clear and not cloudy. Taste-test some of the beers looking for any off flavors or residual chemicals.
- Put everything away in the proper place – other people use this stuff too.
- Wipe down towers and entire area around towers with clean towel.
- Inspect under tower and wipe down trunk and underbar area with damp towel or with isopropyl alcohol spray bottle and towel.
- *Every other cleaning – soak/wash keg couplers in cooler – after removing the duplex couplers place the keg couplers in buckets of hot water for 10 minutes. Scrub them down with a nylon brush and ensure proper mechanical function. Wipe down beer lines with towel. Reattach to kegs (in proper order).
- Keep track of time – Cleaning must be finished before the taproom opens. If something is wrong and you don’t have time to finish, cycle everything with a ton of water and put it away for another day (chemical cycles can be cut to @ 20 minutes when necessary).
Have questions? Let us know in the comments and we’ll do our best to answer them!